Valneva’s Covid-19 vaccine elicits a stronger immune response with far fewer side effects than the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, according to trial results published a month after the UK terminated its €1.4bn deal with the French vaccine maker.The first data from the phase 3 trial showed that participants who were given the Valneva vaccine had more neutralising antibodies than those who received the AstraZeneca shot.Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and trial chief investigator, said the immune responses were “both impressive and extremely encouraging”. “This is a much more traditional approach to vaccine manufacture than the vaccines so far deployed in the UK, Europe and North America and these results suggest this vaccine candidate is on track to play an important role in overcoming the pandemic,” he said.Shares in Valneva rose 32 per cent on Monday. They had fallen 42 per cent in one day last month after the UK government said it was ending its agreement to purchase at least 100m doses of the vaccine. The government accused the vaccine maker of being in breach of the deal, which Valneva strenuously denied.The UK government had invested in Valneva’s Scottish manufacturing plant, in part to shore up domestic production of vaccines. When it announced the investment in August 2020, the then business minister Kwasi Kwarteng described the factory as a “vaccine production powerhouse”. But Downing Street said last month that as the UK regulator had not yet approved the vaccine it would not play any role in the rollout this autumn and winter.
Valneva has commenced a rolling submission to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and is preparing to start the application procedure for conditional approval in the EU. There were no severe cases of Covid-19 in either of the trial’s groups, which included more than 4,600 participants. Valneva’s vaccine also prompted a response from T-cells, another important part of the immune system, in the group that were tested for them. Significantly fewer participants receiving the Valneva vaccine suffered from side effects, with no serious adverse events reported. Many countries have restricted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to older populations, or dropped it completely, because of a rare blood clotting side effect. Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva’s chief executive, said the company was keen to propose an alternative vaccine to those who have not yet received a jab. The vaccine is also being evaluated in a booster trial. “We . . . continue to believe that we will be able to make an important contribution to the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.